Japan Contemplates Massive Rearmament Program

Japan Contemplates Massive Rearmament Program

To counter the growing Chinese security threat and gain popular support in upcoming elections, Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party has pledged to double the country’s defense budget. 

Former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe said the increased defense budget would mean a “new level” of cooperation with allies and deterrence of potential adversaries. According to sources, current Prime Minister Fumio Kishida plans to increase defense spending by about 50% over the record-high 2018 level. “Given the regional security environment which has become increasingly severe, there is a need to elevate Japan-Australia bilateral security and defence cooperation to a new level,” he recently remarked.

The extra money will go to patrol aircraft, mines, transportation aircraft, and high-tech stealth missiles. 

Japan and the Military

As a rule of thumb, a 1% GDP defense budget funds a National Guard-like defense force. It can supplement police departments when needed and provide effective security for large international events, like the recent Tokyo Olympics. A 2% GDP defense budget would probably allow Japan to project power regionally and deter neighborhood bullies like Russia, North Korea, and China. Furthermore, a larger defense budget would put Japan on more even terms with Australia and other regional allies. 

A 3%GDP budget allows a country to project power globally. By comparison, the United States has a 3.4% GDP defense budget.

However, Japan’s militarism has caused trouble before, particularly with two of the three aforementioned neighborhood bullies.

Imperial Japan invaded the newly-formed Chinese Republic in 1931. Japanese sources usually place the start date at 1937. That is just one area of contention between Japan and China regarding the Second Sino-Japanese War. Anyway, the League of Nations, which was the precursor to the United Nations, immediately condemned the invasion and expelled Japan. But no one really noticed or cared. Instead, the Japanese continued the brutal war.

In December 1937, Japanese forces captured Nanjing (Nanking), the Nationalist Chinese capital. The so-called Nanjing Massacre, or Rape of Nanjing, continued for another month. According to Chinese sources, around 300,000 Chinese, mostly civilians, died during this time.

Japanese sources place the number at about 25,000. Public school textbooks often refer to the “incident” at Nanjing. They say little or nothing about the use of “comfort women” and other atrocities associated with the battle. Right wing elements in Japan have successfully lobbied for the removal of even these references.

Japan’s domination of Korea began with an 1876 commercial treaty between the two nations. A series of incidents over the next twenty years, highlighted by an 1894 Korean peasant rebellion and the controversial assassination of Korea’s Queen Min in 1985, precipitated a war between the two nations. 

After that war, Korea became a Japanese possession. For the next forty years, Japan essentially tried to destroy Korean culture and heritage. For example, beginning in 1911, the Japanese tried to force Koreans to give up their ethnic names. Furthermore, the Japanese encouraged emigration and large land purchases. Officials dubiously claimed that a large Japanese colony had once existed on the peninsula. As a final insult to the people, Japanese officials tore down Gyeongbokgung, the royal palace in Seoul.

With so much bad blood, the Japanese are understandably concerned that either or both of these nations might try to flex their considerable military muscle.

We have not forgotten about Russia. There is a longstanding dispute between Moscow and Tokyo over the strategically and economically significant Kuril Islands, which stretch between the Japanese Home Islands and Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula. Both nations claim the entire island chain. Russia relies on some vague promises made by the United States toward the end of World War II. Japan relies on the old adage that possession is nine points of the law.

Japan and Private Military Contractors

Japan’s relationships with its neighbors are not too good. Japan’s relationship with the United States military is not too good either. Around 2010, as protests against continued occupation intensified, the United States planned to withdraw its entire military contingency to Guam. Simmering tensions with China put those plans on hold indefinitely. The Japanese people, many of whom saw the possible China threat as an excuse, were not happy.

Japan’s relationship with private military contractors is much better. Contractors, many of whom are foreign nationals, know how to blend in. Additionally, there is deniability on both sides of the Pacific. Private military contractors do not count in official troop counts. So, both Washington and Tokyo can claim that the American military presence is smaller than it really is.

Since they have less political baggage, private military contractors in Japan can better focus on the task at hand. These tasks usually involve providing security and logistical support.

These same principles apply in other passive overseas war zones, like South Korea and Kuwait. Americans are generally unpopular throughout the world. Private military contractors do not have the same baggage as the U.S. military. Instead, locals are more likely to see them as professionals who are in-country to do a job.

Injury Compensation Available

Bullets are not flying in Japan, at least not at this time. However, the country is still an overseas war zone for Defense Base Act purposes. This label is important. Overseas contractors must be injured in war zones to be eligible for no-fault injury benefits.

Furthermore, the injured victim must usually have been employed by the Defense Department, State Department, or another federal government agency. In some cases, contractors who work for sympathetic foreign governments might also be eligible for DBA benefits.

A nexus, or indirect connection, between the deployment and the illness or injury is usually the final qualification. Assume David is swimming partially for fitness reasons, but mostly for recreational reasons. If he’s injured, DBA benefits are probably still available.

These benefits usually include lost wage replacement and medical bill payment. Most injured victims receive two-thirds of their average weekly wage for the duration of their temporary or permanent disabilities. The DBA’s medical bill payment benefit usually applies to all reasonably necessary medical expenses.

For more information about Defense Base Act claims procedure, contact Barnett, Lerner, Karsen, Frankel & Castro, P.A.